We’ve just spent 35 days in the Middle East leading three tours in the Holy Land, Egypt and Jordan. Of course, you cannot go to these places and lead a spiritual tour without constantly referring to the Old Testament. On this particular journey with all these amazing people, the thing that struck me over and over again was this: When John the Beloved quoted Jesus Christ in chapter 5, verse 39 where He said: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” Jesus was sending the people to the Old Testament to find Him. When Lehi opened the Plates of Brass for the first time and searched them from the beginning (see 1 Nephi 5:10) and then he “was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed (see 1 Nephi 5:17) he was immersed in the Old Testament. When Nephi says, “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures and my heart pondereth them…” he was talking about the Old Testament. When Ammon, Aaron, Omner and Himni converted seven cities of the Lamanites and brought untold thousands to the Savior, they were using only the Old Testament in their teaching! What a treasure we have in the Old Testament!
Hello, we’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and we are delighted to be with you again this week as we, yes, delve again into the Old Testament, specifically into the Book of Judges in a lesson entitled “The Lord Raised Up a Deliverer.” As Scot and I read, study and ponder the Old Testament we are constantly asking ourselves these questions, “How is this leading me closer to the Savior Jesus Christ?” “What can I learn about the Atonement of Jesus Christ in this week’s chapters?” And “What symbols and language in this reading helps me understand the great Deliverer more fully?” The Old Testament is full of rich stories about the Deliverer who is Jesus Christ. The whole concept of deliverance is mentioned over and over again throughout this 1,184-page book of holy writ. In fact, it’s not just mentioned, it might be called one of the greatest lessons of God’s dealings with His covenant children: If you keep the covenants you have made with Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ, you will ALWAYS be delivered. He is always good for His promises. He can always be trusted. He is always true. Just as the hymn says that we sing so often, “Israel, Israel, God is speaking. Hear your great Deliverer’s voice!” Let us hear and heed His voice!
We learn a great deal about the effects of disobedience in the first few verses of Judges chapter 2. Let’s briefly look at them together:
1 And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.
2 And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this?
3 Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.
4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept. (Judges 2:1-4)
I couldn’t tell whether we were reading out of the Book of Mormon or the Old Testament there—or maybe it was a chapter from our own times. Now, this angel was using Diving Imprimatur, which means, he can speak as if he is the Lord God himself. He speaks in first person, as if he is God. Sometimes an angel will say, “Thus saith the Lord…” and then he is delivering a message as a messenger and sometimes, as in this case and often in the Book of Judges, the angel is using Divine Imprimatur.
I love the power of the words, “I said, I will never break my covenant with you.” He has said the same thing in our times:
“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10)
We worship the one true God, the one and only trustworthy God.
That reminds me when we were in Egypt just a few weeks ago and we were marveling at their pantheon of more than 400 gods, I told our tour participants, as we stood before these immense, impressive structures and amazing sculptures and bas relief works of their gods, Horus, Ra, Osiris, Isis, Seth, Ptah, Hathor and Ammon—I said, “you know that when you get to the other side of the veil, you will not meet one of these gods. They don’t exist. They never did. They are made up and not one has ever lived.” It was a great moment for me. My spirit took flight as I contemplated the great blessing it is that we worship the one true God, our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ whom He has sent! When the peoples of the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon remember this, they are blessed and prospered, when they do not, they are cursed and overcome by their enemies.
Now, Joshua lived to be 110 years old and, as we talked about last week, gave his last powerful speech, pleading with the people to choose the God of Israel, and then he died.
Now follow with us in Judges chapter 2, starting in verse 10:
10 And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: [now that means, they all died and were buried with their ancestors] and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
That is a scarry line to me. A generation that does not know the Lord. It certainly makes it plain to see why we are asked to read our scriptures—so that we can remember the Lord. And we are asked to have family home evening—so that we can remember the Lord. And we are encouraged to regularly attend and worship in the temple—so that we can remember our covenants with the Lord. And we are reminded to keep our journals—so that we can remember the Lord.
Yes, and to teach all of this to our children so they we will remember. We did a very powerful fireside on the Prophet Joseph Smith for about 20 years in many stakes all over the Church. As I was bearing my testimony at the end, feeling the Spirit so powerfully testify that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God and was God’s instrument in bringing forth the Book of Mormon and in restoring the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth—I would often say, supported by the Spirit, “You know these things and now you must teach them to your children and your children’s children so that they might also know that these things are true!”
So, look what happened to the people after Joshua died, in verse 11:
11 ¶ And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim:
12 And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger.
13 And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. [Now, I can’t fathom this, but we’re not studying and reading these things to be critical of our forefathers, but to learn from them and not to fall into the same trap of forgetting our God.]
14 ¶ And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.
15 Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.
16 ¶ Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.
Now, the book of Judges and the book of Ruth, which we will talk about next week, contain all the Jewish history that has been preserved to us of the times between the death of Joshua and the birth of Samuel. Judges tell us about the history of the Twelve Judges which is like a roller coaster ride through oppression and rest. It reminds me of some parts of the Book of Mormon when the people in a matter of a few verses can go from righteous to wicked.
The book was compiled long after the events it records; because in chapter 18, verse 30 there is a reference to the captivity of the ten tribes, which doesn’t occur unto 721 B.C. The compiler would have had available earlier writings that he worked into his book, such as the Song of Deborah, the parable of Jotham, and some of the utterances of Samson. The book covers more than 400 years of history.
The book of Judges helps us to understand the development of the house of Israel after the settlement in Canaan. During the period that the book covers, the Israelites formed a confederation of tribes rather than a compact nation. The tribes were united by their recognition of a common descent and still more by their common worship of Jehovah; but, except when the approach of a formidable enemy compelled them to act together, their unity seldom found practical expression and was often overborne by local jealousies. It was only in time of war that a single leader became indispensable and was invested by general consent with something of kingly authority.
The lack of unity is vividly called to the reader’s attention in the closing sentence of the book (Judges 21:25): “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”
This leaves us to glean some lessons for our time and in our study of this book we do not come away empty handed.
One of our favorite characters in this reading is righteous Gideon.
Look in Chapter 6 and let’s help paint the setting:
3 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them;
4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth…and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.
5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it.
6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord.
So, we have that same pattern: When things get really rough, the children of Israel either complain or they cry unto the Lord.
7 ¶ And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord because of the Midianites,
8 That the Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel, which said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage;
9 And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land;
10 And I said unto you, I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed my voice.
So, essentially the Lord reminded them of all the miracles of their fathers being brought out of Egypt, the then super power of the whole world, and how they were not only delivered but all the people who were in the Promised Land were driven out before them—miraculously by the Hand of God.
11 ¶ And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abi-ezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
12 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.
13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? but now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.
See, Gideon had been taught well by his parents. He knew of the miracles of deliverance of his forefathers and he knew that the people in his time had sinned.
14 And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?
This is the same kind of language the Lord gave to Joshua.
15 And [Gideon] said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.
16 And the Lord said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.
There is a pattern introduced here and seen over and over again in the scriptures. The Lord uses the weak things of the world to “come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones.” (see Doctrine and Covenants 1:19; 1 Chronicles 29:1; Acts 4:13; 1 Corinthians 1:27; 1 Nephi 7:8-18; Doctrine and Covenants 35:13; and Doctrine and Covenants 124:1) And Gideon considered himself, as Joseph and Brigham, and David, and Jeremiah and Isaiah and Moses and Nephi and Spencer W. Kimball—one of the weak things of the earth.
President Monson loved Gideon. He tells the story this way:
“Sometimes the task appears overwhelming. We can take fresh courage from the experience of Gideon of old, who, with his modest force, was to do battle with the Midianites and the Amalekites. You will remember how Gideon and his army faced an overwhelming strength of forces vastly superior in equipment and in number. The book of Judges in the Old Testament records that the united enemy, the Midianites and the Amalekites, “lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.” Gideon went to Almighty God for his strength.
“To his surprise,” President Monson continues, “Gideon was advised by the Lord that his forces were too many in number for the Lord to deliver the enemy into their hands, lest they say, “Mine own hand hath saved me.” Gideon was instructed to proclaim to his people: “Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart … from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand.”
I want to just add a footnote here: This always amazed me that with an army of at least 32,000, they were given a free-will choice based on their bravery levels—if they are afraid, they can withdraw and go back to their tents and not engage in the battle. And 22,000 of them withdraw! Incredible!
Back to President Monson:
Then the Lord said, “The people are yet too many.” He instructed Gideon to take the men to water to observe the manner in which they should drink of the water. Those who lapped the water were placed in one group, and those who bowed down upon their knees to drink were placed in another. The Lord said unto Gideon, “By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place.”
“Gideon returned to his forces and said to them, “Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.” And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers and lamps within the pitchers. And he said unto them:
“Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do.
“When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side … and say, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.” He then said in effect, “Follow me.” His exact words were, “As I do, so shall ye do.”
“At the leader’s signal, the host of Gideon did blow on the trumpets and did break the pitchers and did shout, “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon.” The scripture records the outcome of this decisive battle: “And they stood every man in his place,” and the victory was won. (Monson, Thomas S., Stand in Your Appointed Place, General Conference, April 2003)
President Boyd K. Packer draws yet more from this story for our day:
“Gideon had an interesting way of selecting his recruits. When the men drank water at a stream, most “bowed down … to drink.” Those he passed over. A few scooped up water in their hands and drank, remaining completely alert. They were the ones chosen.
“We live in a day of “wars [and] rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places.” As prophesied, “the whole earth [is] in commotion” and “Satan is abroad in the land.” He seeks to destroy all that is good and righteous. He is Lucifer, who was cast out of the presence of God. Against all of that, we have very positive feelings about what lies ahead.
Gideon’s small force succeeded because, as the record states, “they stood every man in his place.”…
“It has never been easy to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was not easy when He lived, and it was not easy in the early days of the Church. The early Saints were subjected to unspeakable suffering and opposition.
“It has been over 180 years since the priesthood was restored. We now number nearly 14 million members. [And we might add now nearly 17 million members] Even so, we are a tiny fraction when compared to the billions of people on earth. But we are who we are, and we know what we know, and we are to go forth and preach the gospel.”
“The Book of Mormon makes it clear,” President Packer continues, “that we never will dominate by numbers. But we have the power of the priesthood.
“The prophet Nephi wrote, “It came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few … ; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small.”
“President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “While it may be said … that we are but a handful in comparison with … the world, yet we may be compared with the leaven of which the Savior spoke, which will eventually leaven [or lift] the whole world.”
“We can and in due time certainly will influence all of humanity. It will be known who we are and why we are. It might seem hopeless; it is monumentally difficult; but it is not only possible but certain that we will win the battle against Satan. (Packer, Boyd K., The Power of the Priesthood, General Conference, April 2010)
The Lord seems to like small numbers. Yes, if He wanted to He could call down 12 Legions of angels to intervene, but generally He doesn’t. He just stands with us in our battles and as we stand with Him, the battles are won.
Scot, I so well remember going to the Ghana Temple dedication in Accra and interviewing the senior missionaries and leaders there. That was the first time we ever held a Youth Celebration just before a temple dedication. And it could not have been a harder place to coordinate such an effort. Few of the kids even had addresses. To get to one youth’s home it was ten miles on the dirt road that passes the water supply station, then turn at the small Coca Cola sign and look for the third cement house on the left. The youth were young in the gospel. They had never seen a Road Show or a play. They were each given a local area director and then, on one full day, they would put the nearly 2,000 kids together and put on a performance for the Prophet.
I remember the colorful native costumes, the indigenous instruments—especially the drums.
And do you remember those kids were told they could only perform their part for three minutes and they said that it wouldn’t work. These kids were used to sending messages and communicating with drums. They could send whole messages with the drums and in their culture, everyone understood what they were saying. But it might take 15 minutes to communicate a certain thought. “President Hinckley will never understand what we are trying to say if we only have three minutes. We can hardly even welcome him properly.” But, welcome them they did. I was standing right by him when the native missionaries came onto the stage and sang “Called to Serve” directly to the Prophet. Both President and Sister Hinckley were in tears. And then 850 primary children, all dressed in white, entered the stadium, each with a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of him or her, and they sang, in their beautiful African English: I love to see the temple. I’m going there some day To feel the Holy Spirit, To listen and to pray. For the temple is a house of God, A place of love and beauty. I’ll prepare myself while I am young: This is my sacred duty.”
And I remember, Scot, you had the hardest time photographing those kids because your own eyes were so filled with tears you could not see to focus. Here, indeed, were the weak things of the world, coming into this stadium with the other beautiful youth and putting on the most beautiful program full of light and power. Here was the army of Gideon that could turn away in enemies of the Church and who were filled with the light and power of God. I will never forget that night and to see, as Nephi had seen, the power of God resting down upon the Saints in Ghana.
And it all reminds me of what the Lord can do with small numbers. It is the loaves and fishes principle.
Elder James E. Faust taught:
“Some months ago, as Elder Spencer J. Condie and I were in the Salt Lake airport, we unexpectedly met a devoted and faithful couple who have been friends for long years. This couple has spent a lifetime of service, meekly, faithfully, and effectively trying to build up the Church in many places in the world. Elder Condie noted, “Isn’t it remarkable what people with five loaves and two fishes do to build up the kingdom of God.” This kind of quiet, devoted service to me is surely a fulfillment of the word of God “that the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers”…
Elder Faust continued: “It has been said that this church does not necessarily attract great people but more often makes ordinary people great. Many nameless people with gifts equal only to five loaves and two small fishes magnify their callings and serve without attention or recognition, feeding literally thousands…
“These are the hundreds of thousands of leaders and teachers in all of the auxiliaries and priesthood quorums, the home teachers, the Relief Society visiting teachers. These are the many humble bishops in the Church, some without formal training but greatly magnified, always learning, with a humble desire to serve the Lord and the people of their wards.”…
“In the listening audience today are Jeff and Joyce Underwood of Pocatello, Idaho. They are parents of Jeralee and their other five children. Jeff works on a building maintenance team that cares for some of our chapels in Pocatello, Idaho. Joyce is a mother and homemaker. One day last July, their daughter Jeralee, age eleven, was going door to door collecting money for her newspaper route. Jeralee never returned home—not that day, nor the next day, nor the next, nor ever.
“Two thousand people from the area had gone out day after day to search for her. Other churches sent support and food for the searchers. It was learned that Jeralee had been abducted and brutally murdered by an evil man. When her body was found, the whole city was horrified and shocked. All segments of the community reached out to Joyce and Jeff in love and sympathy. Some became angry and wanted to take vengeance.
“After Jeralee’s body was found, Jeff and Joyce appeared with great composure before the television cameras and other media to publicly express their profound thanks to all who had helped in the search and who had extended sympathy and love. Joyce said, “I know our Heavenly Father has heard and answered our prayers, and he has brought our daughter back to us.” Jeff said, “We no longer have doubt about where she is.” Joyce continued, “I have learned a lot about love this week, and I also know there is a lot of hate. I have looked at the love and want to feel that love, and not the hate. We can forgive.”
“Elder Joe J. Christensen and I, representing the General Authorities, were among the thousands privileged to attend Jeralee’s funeral service. The Holy Spirit blessed that gathering in a remarkable way and spoke peace to the souls of all who attended.
“Later, President Kert W. Howard, Jeralee’s stake president, wrote, “The Underwoods have received letters from people both in and out of the Church stating that they prayed for Jeralee, and they hadn’t prayed in years, and because of this, they had a renewed desire to return to the Church.” President Howard continued, “We will never know the extent of activation and rededication this single event has caused. Who knows the far-reaching effects Jeralee’s life will have for generations untold.” Many have come into the Church because they wanted to know what kind of a religion could give the Underwoods their spiritual strength.
“I mention the good coming from this tragic event with Jeralee’s parents’ full approval and encouragement. Their sweet daughter was like the lad who had only five barley loaves and two small fishes to give to the cause of the Savior, but by the power of God, countless thousands have been spiritually fed.” (Faust, James E., Five Loaves and Two Fishes, General Conference, April 1994)
Whether a young girl in Pocatello, Idaho or Gideon, the least of a poor family in ancient Manasseh, the Lord can make us instruments in His hands to do His work to bless, lift and strengthen His children. He is not worried about numbers; He only requires faithfulness and obedience. And His promises are sure. He will deliver us from all our enemies because He is the great Deliverer.
That’s all for today. We’ve loved being with you—and thank you for joining us. Next week we will study the Book of Ruth and the first three chapters of First Samuel. As always, thank you to Paul Cardall for the music that accompanies this podcast and much thanks to our producer, Michaela Proctor Hutchins. Have a great week and see you next time.